TILLY - PARIS
Tilly Tillier clocks in about 20 hours of exercise a week. She has practiced dance, capoeira, cycling, sailing, kayaking, skiing, swimming, and horseback riding. But these days, she spends her time between hot yoga and the classes that she teaches at Dynamo Cycling in Paris.
She brings her Riot Grrrl edge and aesthetics to class and will have you peddling (in a pool of sweat) to the likes of Peaches, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and No Doubt. But as proof that looks can be deceiving, Tilly lives frugally, rarely drinks, and prefers down-to-earth encounters. Oh, and she’s a blast.
I/O: What was the first sport you played?
Tilly: As a child, I was reserved, and my mother signed me up for a dance class so I’d socialize with my peers. I was 5 the first time I put my leggings on, and wore them for pretty much 13 years, until I moved to London.
I/O: And the first sport that really felt right for you?
T: I found some comfort in dance. It didn’t rid me of my shyness, but I did find an alternative way to express myself. I spent my time learning piano and practicing dance. My father gave me the taste for an active lifestyle. Together, we’d cycle for hundreds of kilometers, play tennis, go windsurfing, kayaking, skiing, swimming, horseback riding, or even play ping-pong… Sports were a major bonding factor in our family, and I can’t thank him enough for that.
I/O: A sports-related memory?
T: The day I got my first cord as a capoeirista! It felt like a real initiation ceremony into a tight-knit community, where I really belonged... Very different from what I was used to with dancing, where people can be competitive, self-centered, even hostile at times. That was the start of a journey to understanding, and opening myself to the world, to life and what it can mean. Something very spiritual began then. I was 15 and for the first time, I could talk to boys, affirm and express myself. I was a dancer, and had my dad’s thirst for pushing myself, so I stood out. I am a born competitor, and challenging men in sports helped me move forwards.
My professional life depends on my body, and that demands real discipline. Contrary to what people think, I am not your typical party-going Parisian, I lead a pretty monastic life. I like relationships that are unpretentious and straightforward.
I/O: Does getting out of your comfort zone give you mental strength to face challenges in everyday life?
T: Undeniably. Through sports, I’ve acquired real inner strength. Pushing your limits makes you stronger! I feel powerful when I’m in a good place mentally, even though I have my ups and downs. In these moments, sports are the best form of therapy. I love going to training, meeting people, sharing a moment, however brief. I see sports as a sort of exchange. Over the years, I’ve learned to let go, and I love it!
I/O: How do you balance your professional and personal life?
T: I’m lucky enough to do what I love for a living, so it doesn’t really feel like work! My schedule is usually full, and I don’t ever fully stop, but I do like to take time off, especially to talk with my students. The real work is taking care of my body. My professional life depends on it, and that demands real discipline. Contrary to what people think, I am not your typical party-going Parisian, I lead a pretty monastic life. I like relationships that are unpretentious and straightforward
I/O: A mantra?
T: A healthy mind in a healthy body.
Bob: Stüssy. Sweatshirt: Fila. Leggings: Adidas. Sneakers: Nike Huarache. Sports Bra: Odlo. Yoga Mat: Chakra - EQ Love.
I/O: How would you define a typical Parisienne’s relationship with sports and fitness?
T: Parisian women work so hard, and the pace of their lives is frantic! Women here don’t like being judged, timed, or set to compete against each other, because that’s what everyday life is already about. What they do need is support, encouragement. I think that’s what they’re looking for, and I can understand it!
I/O: Do you think the Parisienne’s relationship to sports has changed over the last few years?
T: I used to live in London, so I’m still fresh to this Parisian life. From what I can see, women here are proud to belong to a studio, a group, or a club. They like being a part of something they can recognize themselves in. Look at me: I’m not your typical coach! I’m very thin, I have tattoos, and the soundtrack to my classes is hip-hop, and rock. Dynamo Cycling has revolutionized what it can mean to workout, and I love training in their space! I love the connection I have with my clients. It’s something real, and strong! Here’s what’s changed for sports in Paris: you don’t just talk about it, you live it!
I/O: And in relation to sportswear?
T: From what I can see, a lot of girls go to work wearing sneakers, and sweatshirts have made it into the mainstream. There’s such progress there! When I choose clothes, I go for comfort: I love when fashion is compatible with what I do. I’ll admit proudly that I’m a bit of a tomboy. I even play into that role sometimes, it’s a look I like. I exercise every day, I give classes every day, so I really need clothes that keep me warm, and that are easy to change into. As for my feminine side, I express it through lingerie: I love lace and lipstick!
Parisians don’t like to be judged, timed, or set to compete with each other, because that’s what everyday life is already about! What they do need is support, and encouragement.
I/O: How does French Touch apply to sports?
T: Croissant in the morning, bread and cheese in the evening? French people aren’t into abstention, and I don’t really know anyone here who lives like I do! Privileging a healthy lifestyle, picking certain non-traditional diets, eating organic… It happens, but most French people eat for pleasure, and then work out to eliminate. When it comes to sports, the French Touch is a way to get rid of stress, and keeping zen in France is a discipline all by itself!
I/O: What’s your favorite sportswear item?
T: Sports bra and crop tops with a very specific neckline.
I/O: A self care tip or beauty product you can’t go without?
T: Splashing cold water on my face to tighten my pores after every class.
I/O: What’s your favorite sports-friendly hairstyle, or a favorite accessory?
T: I always train with a hat on: a baseball cap, a piece of cloth, a bucket hat, a visor… I don’t think any of my students have ever seen me with my hair down!
Top: American Apparel. Leggings: Dynamo x Lululemon. Shoes: Mavic.
I/O: All black or rainbow bright?
T: It’s all-or-nothing, with me. I’ll wear a ton of color one day, and a monochrome black, grey or white outfit the next day. I have my own way of balancing this out, and I don’t have any rules when it comes to picking clothes. My closet is organized thematically, so I’ll take a quick look and get a feel for my mood that day, and be ready within a minute. Getting dressed is not something I overthink, but I do believe in variety. Very colorful, a little color or no color at all, it really depends!
I/O: Do you have any rituals when it comes to food, beauty, meditation?
T: I have a ritual for everything! I start my days off by taking a long walk with my dog, then I have my sacred breakfast moment, preferably with lots of fresh-pressed juice, grains and cereals. That’s my morning meditation: I try to make sense of what’s on my mind, and think about the day ahead... I also try be as close as I can to a vegan diet, I’m careful as to where the things I buy come from. As far as beauty tips go, it’s really simple: I only use jojoba oil for my skin, argan oil for my hair, aloe vera for my lips, and cruelty-free products for my eyes. It’s also become very clear to me that I don’t want to take any pharmaceutical drugs. I cure myself with essential oils, mainly ravintsara. I used to smoke a lot of weed. For a long time, and I fought so hard to get my physical and mental health back, as a result I’ve become a bit of a control freak. I rarely drink, and I exercise fifteen to twenty hours every week. Respecting your body takes time!
I/O: Have you ever travelled for wellness?
T: I travelled when I was cycling a lot, from California to Las Vegas, Switzerland to Holland, Spain, and Belgium. I love travelling, but in the past couple of years, I have fallen so hard for Paris and don’t want to leave!
I/O: Any travel destinations on your bucket list?
T: I really want to discover New York, I think it’s a uniquely visionary city, in terms of wellness, it would be like travelling to the future! I’m pretty excited for that trip, I really need to make it happen! I really want to train with Tara Stiles and take Soul Cycle classes!
I/O: Is music central to your choice of activity?
T: I live in rhythm! There is always music playing at my place, and I’ve never stopped discovering new genres, or revisiting older discoveries. My years spent dancing, practicing the piano - I even had my own radio show called Riot Grrrl - and my time in London all really shaped my musical taste. I’m extremely curious, I always need something new to listen to!
I/O: Do you believe in a new form of feminism? Do you think girls support each other more today than they used to, in performance and sports?
T: Absolutely! I’m surrounded by women, and I love it, I admire them! But I think it’s still a sensitive topic. I like keeping some of my opinions to myself. I’m an active woman, so I practice my own form of feminism by giving community classes to prostitutes in my neighborhood, for example.
I/O: Do you prefer training solo or in a group?
T: Both! Sometimes, I enjoy being just another student in a yoga class, and sometimes, I need to be with my tribe, it really depends on my mood!
I/O: Have you ever made friends through your different activities?
T: Of course! At yoga, spin, or dance class, on a cycling track, during training or competitions, I meet a lot of people through sports. I hate bars, so working out is a good way for me to meet people. It’s a healthy environment, and that creates strong bonds. A sports-oriented community is supportive, and it’s a place to better ourselves together. What can be better than that?
I/O: So you feel that you are part of a sports and wellness community?
T: Of course, and that’s how I manage to be so dedicated. Without that sense of community, I wouldn’t be taking such good care of myself!
Tips and Addresses
1 piece of advice to get the most out of training: Always drink at least a liter of water beforehand!
1 coach: Clotilde Chaumet (editor’s note: Clotilde is a coach at Dynamo Cycling, and teaches yoga. She’s the face of Nike’s new “Beautiful x Powerful” campaign).
1 power song: "Dirge" by Death in Vegas.
1 app: Dojo
1 blog or website: Vice
1 food spot: Uptown
1 drink: Fresh juice, with ginger, carrot, apple, orange and lemon.
1 person we should interview: Juliet Elliott (editor’s note: Juliet Elliott is an ex-professional snowboarder and model, who then moved to cycling as a coach and journalist, and writes about it on her blog: www.bikes-n-stuff.com).